Agile is hot, waterfall is over. At least, that seems to be the leading opinion in the IT world. How Agile are you? Do you still develop in the traditional way, trying to specify every detail upfront? Or do you realize it’s not possible and just too costly to specify everything upfront? Today I read an article on a Dutch blog (in Dutch) stating that an Agile way of working suits the needs of young IT people (Gen Y) best. If this is the case it would be a major reason to choose for Agile development due to the simple fact it’s rather hard to find good people. Does this mean is the whole grale for IT? And will Gen X (project) managers be able to handle?
Agile suits current organizational needs
After the recent economic downturn companies more than ever before demand flexibility and short time to market. Software solutions have to be developed quickly, proto typing is the new magic. If successful, they will continue to invest.
An Agile approach perfectly fits these needs.
The more conservative approach, called waterfall, strives to specify all the needs in a very detailed way. Based on my own experience and sufficient other examples I dare to state this is just impossible. These processes are time and money consuming and hardly ever lead to a satisfactory result.
By using an Agile approach we all together more or less know the destination of our journey at a high level. Together all the people involved define the highest priorities. Within several weeks time these highest priorities will be released as a working application enabling the people involved to provide instant feedback.
Step by step this results in an application we couldn’t define upfront but which in general really satisfies the user’s needs.
An Agile way of working suits Gen Y
According to the author of the mentioned article an Agile way of working suits the current generation of IT people, Gen Y, best. It satisfies their need for flexibility and freedom combined with self responsibility. It would result into more work pleasure, a higher productivity and more value for the business.
Personally, I believe this is true if you manage to implement Agile in a successful way. And believe me, that’s not easy.
An Agile approach makes things more unpredictable
Implementing an Agile way of working demands a very high level of team responsibility. Things become very transparent, nobody can hide.
Not every (young) IT person will be able to handle this responsibility from day one. That takes time and needs guidance. Fear to be punished for mistakes can even damage the whole process.
But not only for the IT people it’s a big change. It might be even a more dramatic change for clients, project owners and managers. No longer will the management be able to interrupt the development process just like that. Their management style needs to change from demanding into supporting.
Managers might get the feeling they are no longer “in control”. A project seems to be less predictable. Previously, everything was at least on paper, the budget and deadline were fixed.
But please be honest. How often was the deadline met and did you manage the project within budget?
Will Gen X be able to switch?
Gen Y developers will manage to work productively in an Agile way if they are well guided. It will demand a more supportive organization culture and structure and the Agile team needs to get the full trust, otherwise it won’t work.
That might be the biggest challenge. This demands a dramatic attitude change of Gen X. Believe me, it’s not easy to convince them. They are just too much used to putting everything on paper.
But most of the paper work is really a waste of valuable time and money. Add this to an Agile project budget as risk coverage en you will be surprised by the end result.
Dare to trust Gen Y, give them the future and enjoy the fun and result! At 4Developers, 4 April 2011 in Warsaw, I will discuss this matter in more detail.